Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Bushi No Te and the Knee Strike

One of the biggest secret I’ve seen in my studies regarding karate is the binding nature of the original explanations one was given.

Those special placement answers of kata application, coming out of the era when real kata were not used for anything but exercise, sat on the mind for decades. When one began research on a specific kata section, most often you struck yourself in the head wondering why you didn’t see it decades before. The reason, the initial answer kept one from thinking about it further.

But times change, and the best model I’ve seen isn’t hiding anything, or having the student take the time to work it out for themselves. I think a stronger model involves a programmed course of application instruction so more time is spent on the tactical considerations to set up the way to use the kata, than trying to figure out what it could be used for.  Of course I realize others feel differently, it’s a big world.

More specifically when I chose to add Saifa into my program I wasn’t trying to preserve any specific Goju heritage. The reasons behind my choice were something like this.

  1. I wanted all of my students to have a tactile feel of Goju, as separate from their Isshinryu technique. I chose systems which reside in the area I’ve lived in. I feel knowledge helps bridge the gap about what others do. So the variation of Saifa I chose to teach, likely has several different sources, but still the inner Saifa remains.
  2. As I became a specialist training youth in  a long time program with 7 to 9 years to sho-dan I wanted to give them a break between the study of Seisan Kata and Seiunchin Kata, and felt that the Goju I had seen most often taught Saifa before Seiunchin, I was briding both to somewhat standard Goju instruction, and giving them a break at a shorter kata between two longer kata. This also had the benefit of helping slow down the students progress, allowing them more time for skill acquisition.
  3. I wanted to try and have my students do better Saifa than the Goju stylist. The operating word was ‘TRY’. It provided another minor goal in training, and finding minor goals has its use for self motivation.
  4. A most minor benefit was it allowed me to retain the knee strike front kick combination without changing the Isshinryu Wansu kata that I had been taught.
  5. And the most major long range event was I truly like the inner destructiveness of Saifa’s application potential. But my choice was well before I began my application potential studies.

Now to expand on the knee strike to front kick, when I saw this variation, and of course the front kick variation, I realized the link to the way Isshinryu’s Wansu used to close.

The change to the front kick occurred before I began my studies. And I was taught so many variations on the Isshinryu kata, my instructor saw and participated in Isshinryu as a general template than Isshinryu as a fixed form, based on his own training and the observed returning Marines over the years.  Likewise Charles has told me the variation between Isshinryu when he was in Okinawa was a prevalent as back home in the States.

The knee strike is one of the original lower body drills from my first training. From our front stance, your hands held chest high, we practiced the knee strike into the palms of the hands before one, the toes pointed to the ground throughout.

But Charles told me about the incredible knee strikes he saw the Okinawan’s doing. How he felt their knee strikes were trying to break one in half, and the manner of execution was different. Instead of just springing off the floor, how the kicking leg went free, the foot would draw back (off of the floor) into a free floating chamber allowing  the knee strike to go ballistic, still keeping the does of the leg striking, pointing to the ground.

This was a more dynamic knee strike and after a student was into Wansu Kata study a year or so, I change their technique from the beginning knee to the ballistic knee.

But the ending of Isshinryu’s Wansu has two front leg front kicks. Some tournament competitors draw that kicking leg back behind the supporting leg before throwing the front kick (drawing on the same momentum as the advanced knee strike I previously described).

But the original version was the knee strike with the front kick coming out of the knee strike returning chamber of that leg.

What I saw in Saifa, was the ability to keep that knee strike-front kick in the students training, and keep their front front kick in Wansu. Leveraging the best of both worlds.

In similar vein in Isshinryu’s Chinto kata, there is a double jump front kick. I was taught it as a jumping knee strike followed by a front kick with the other foot. But Mr. Lewis described how it was previously done as a jumping front leg front kick and a following back leg front kick. The same kick is found in the end of Isshinryu’s Kusanku Kata, too.

Well it took over 20 years before I could change what I was originally shown.  I kept the Chinto double jump kick as a knee kick/ front kick, but I changed the Kusanku front kick into a true double front kick. So the students have the ability to cover both options in their kata studies.

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